Although Barton County Commissioners applauded the efforts of youth basketball coach Ethan Thomas to create a countywide elementary school basketball league, they could not support the county fund offer to help sponsor it. However, they urged him to seek support from service clubs and the business sector.
“I’m all for it, but not using county money,” District 1 Commissioner Kirby Krier said during the commission’s meeting Wednesday morning at the courthouse. “You will find your money. There are many entities out there that would support this.
“This is an admirable project,” said District 5 Commissioner Jennifer Schartz. But, with the commission cutting funding to outside organizations and trying to monitor spending, “we don’t have the funds for that.”
District 2 Commissioner Barb Esfeld suggested she approach groups like the Great Bend Kiwanis and Pilot clubs. “It’s right up their alley.”
Dressed in his day job uniform as a Great Bend police officer, Thomas said he was from Ellinwood and played for a church league as a child. While those teams have faded, he wants to bring back youth basketball.
“I would like to form a new Barton County Elementary Basketball League so that we can collectively train all of our future athletes,” Thomas said. “I ask the Barton County Commission to sponsor this league to give our children the opportunity to play from an early age, for many reasons and benefits.”
He was looking for around $7,000 to help pay for referees (he would match high school kids with experienced referees) and trophies/medals. Ideally, between admission fees and support from school organizations, Thomas said the program would be self-sufficient and not require county support in the future.
Currently, he is committed to Central Kansas Christian Academy and Holy Family Schools in Great Bend, as well as elementary schools in Great Bend Unified School District 428. Hoisington and Ellinwood schools have declined this year, but the door remains open for the future, he said.
The teams would feature students in grades three through six over an eight-week season that would culminate in a knockout tournament. Thomas said they hope to start this year’s inaugural season on November 13 and finish by January 18.
The games would take place on weekends so students could participate in other extra-circular activities and there would be minimal driving time, he said. The games would take place at CKCA, Holy Family and the $428 Panther Activity Center.
It would build relationships between players, coaches and school officials, he said. At the same time, “it gives our young players more time and experience on the field, bolstering our overall sporting interest in Barton County.”
“It will ultimately raise the skill level for college and high school basketball,” he said. “It would allow cheerleaders to gain experience at a younger level.”
Going forward, they plan to start earlier so they can be completed in the fall so they don’t conflict with the Great Bend Recreation Commission basketball season.
Commission Chairman Shawn Hutchinson, District 3, said he spoke with Thomas some time ago and tried to influence the commission. However, in the end, he understood the reluctance and told Thomas to tap into other community resources.
Any business or organization interested in helping sponsor the league can contact Thomas at 620-566-7619.